Tejay Antone had not thrown a big league pitch in over two years before returning to the mound this weekend. Michael Mariot, meanwhile, had not pitched at the game’s highest level since 2016 before helping bail out the Cincinnati Reds during yesterday’s bullpen game.
With respect to Antone, who was always hopeful to return this time of the year as a bullpen guy, neither was supposed to be here like this. Antone was tasked with starting yesterday as the team labors through losing each of Hunter Greene, Ben Lively, and Brandon Williamson to the COVID list while stress reactions have shelved both Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft for the near future, too. All this, mind you, while Joey Votto, Jonathan India, and Matt McLain sit on the injured list, too, while Jake Fraley does what he can with a broken toe of his own.
This is a team full of rookie pitchers, a team full of rookie hitters. Despite the Reds recent ability to turn high draft picks into big leaguers, this is a team full of rookie pitchers and hitters who have been assembled from outside the organization, too. This club, the one in the dugout these days, has neither years of experience on which to lean nor years of relationships with those they’re sitting next to, either. Yet still, they’re clubbing big-time homers and spinning big-time strikeouts to keep the front of their jerseys in the heart of the National League Wild Card race.
Monday’s 6-3 win over the Seattle Mariners could stick out as an example of their particular resilience, but a look from a little more distance really doesn’t make it stand out so much. It’s become who they are - a team capable of turning to the next man up and not only not missing a beat, but finding an extra gear with each call-up. That’s what they’ll hope for on Tuesday, too, as Connor Phillips and his elite ability to strike out nearly everyone he faces will take the mound for the Reds for his MLB debut. He’ll do so, of course, against the very franchise that drafted him back in 2020, too.
I think we’ve reached the point where we should having nothing less than high expectations for Phillips, and for the folks behind him ready to pick up the pieces should he not have it on the day. These resilient Reds have earned that right.